Dan Barber wears many hats. While he is foremost a chef, he is also a farmer, author, entrepreneur, and advocate for the environment, among many other things. I first learned about Dan and his work on Chef’s Table, a TV documentary series produced by Netflix. The 50 minute episode is available on Netflix, but I have included a preview below.
I started watching this series because I wanted to learn more about different cooking styles. Each episode details the work of a specific chef with a unique cooking style, and each of them are very interesting, but Dan’s episode really resonated with me due to his involvement with food beyond the kitchen. He strives to create not only a wonderful culinary experience for his customers, but also one that is educational. He owns two restaurants, one of which resides on a farm where he grows many of the items for his menu.
I was really struck by Dan’s dedication to his restaurant and the environment as well as his involvement in other areas of the food system such as policy and education. If I have learned anything from my studies of food systems thus far, it is that it is composed of many different players with specific roles that can tend to act separately from one another or seem unrelated. Dan’s desire to translate his extensive knowledge of cooking and farming into education and policy initiatives really impressed me, and learning about his work solidified the importance of a well-rounded understanding of the food system in my own mind.
Translating this understanding into my current experience as a participant in the FoodWorks program thus far, I know there have been some times where I have done a reading or participated in an activity that I wasn’t completely interested in. But moving forward I need to remind myself that every food system issue is complex and usually stems from more than one source. I know going forward that I want to do work that involves food system improvement, so I need to take advantage of every opportunity to expand my knowledge in all relevant areas, whether they be of genuine interest to me or not.